Tag Archives: Ballarat Writers Festival

Book Week

There’s a parental saying I recall from childhood that arose whenever I asked/proposed something apparently unrealistic, unreasonable, inconvenient or inappropriate. The reply was along the lines of, “What do you think it is, Bush Week?” I quickly came to interpret this as meaning there was no chance of my request/idea eventuating.

Today I Googled the origins of the expression. Seems it refers to a week when wide-eyed bushies visited the city and fell prey to unscrupulous urban scams and rip-off merchants. My parents clearly cast me in the role of the scammer, despite my rural origins.

I’m reminded of the expression mainly because it sounds similar to Book Week. And, yes, this is a time when authors (often introverted and naive like bushies) venture, blinking, out of their garrets and into the wide world to proselytise on the magic of reading and creative writing. For those of us writing for children and young adults it can be the busiest week of the year.

My Book Week kicked off early, chatting to Yr 7 students in Pakenham on Friday. Yesterday I was in Wyndham Vale, as the (kind of) local storyteller accompanying Melina Marchetta, Elizabeth Honey and insideadog.com.au’s Adele Walsh. Tomorrow I’m in Fitzroy, followed by Greenvale (Thurs) and Berwick (Fri).

The following week I’m chatting in Mentone and also chuffed to share a Melbourne Writers’ Festival stage with Alice Pung. Last but not least, I’m trundling down the Western Highway for the Ballarat Writers’ Festival – a brilliant line-up focused entirely on literature for children and young adults. (Think Kirsty Murray, Penni Russon, Kate Constable, Steph Bowe, Leanne Hall, Karen Tayleur, Gabrielle Williams, Maureen McCarthy, Corinne Fenton and many others.)

September promises some other big adventures (details another post) but I’ll round off the month with the A Thousand Words Festival where I’m doing a couple of sessions including, gulp, the keynote address. As I blog this, I’m still open to suggestions on what folks would like to hear about. (At the moment I’m thinking about tackling ‘risk’.) This fledgling festival also puts writing for children and young adults in the spotlight and has some sensational sessions in store. If you’re interested in mingling with authors and illustrators it’s an opportunity to meet the likes of Sally Rippin, Cath Crowley, Fiona Wood & Michael Pryor. The Little Monkey and I attended in 2009 and had a great time.

Come the end of September I reckon I’ll be ready to self-medicate and/or become a hermit. Actually, I’m expecting to be overflowing with ideas and inspired by all these creative encounters. Locking away some rare writing time should be a must.

Speaking of which, folks keep ask me what I’m working on and I give necessarily vague answers. I’m not sure where the current ideas will go when they find water, fertile ground and fresh air. What I can say is my latest piece of published work arrived in the mail last week – a short story in a collection called The New Paper Trails. I was rapt to be asked to submit a story for this textbook and was honoured to find my work surrounded by tales from established authors like Garth Nix and Carole Wilkinson. The book is designed for English teachers with students aged approx 10 to 14. Hopefully it will find its way into teacher resources and a library or two.

Have a great Book Week and watch out for scammers.

Rust free

I’m embarrassed by how neglected this blog has been lately. Apologies to anyone who has tuned in and failed to find anything new.

The truth is that my work status has changed and, with new responsibilities and deadlines, I’ve had to cut back on non-essential tasks. Blogging and tweeting are among those. As for writing, sigh, let’s just say you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Book 3. I have the ingredients, characters and a good chunk of the plot – but no time to knead and bake.

Indeed, this post is being tapped out in a lull between cooking dinner, doing dishes and wrangling the kids towards their beds. Storytime beckons and I’ll soon be plunged into fictional worlds of noisy new babies and lusty vampire ninjas.

So, please find below a bulleted list of things that have consumed the first quarter of 2011:

  • I’ve had a week’s residence at a secondary school where the Yr 10 English students studied Five Parts Dead. That was impressive on several levels. 5PD is a novel that’s less than a year old but the staff found it somehow and felt it would connect with their students, including reluctant readers. The feedback has been incredibly positive and the college is looking at studying the book in 2012 with a fresh batch of Yr 10s. I’m indebted to a group of teachers and teacher-librarians who were willing to think outside the usual bunch of school texts. As for the students, they certainly came up with probing questions about character and plot. I reckon I understand my own work better, thanks to their dissection.
  • I have sold three short stories, two of which will be used in literacy tests. The third will feature in a school textbook for Grade 5 to Year 8 students. I haven’t had any junior fiction published before so I’m quietly chuffed about this.
  • I attended my first interstate speaking engagement, joining the smorgasbord of storytellers at the Newington College Literature Festival in Sydney. I applaud Newington for generating so much enthusiasm and interest in words and writing from their students and staff. And it really was fun to meet and spend time with other speakers.
  • My family booked tickets for Japan – and then watched in horror at the devastation wrought by the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear contamination. Our holiday plans are on ice but this is inconsequential. My heart goes out to the generous people of Japan as they grapple with a social, environmental and economic toll we Australians can’t possibly comprehend. I heard a father interviewed last week who lost two children to the tsunami. Every day after work he returns to the wreckage to search for even the smallest sign of their bodies. There must be thousands of other heart-breaking stories like this.
  • I spoke to a group of 250 Yr 12 students just off the buses at their first day of study camp, in Week 1 of term. Chances of them remembering my words? Slim if not nil. Apologies to the student that asked for tips on writing short stories that I haven’t posted yet. (I haven’t forgotten though – and will do so ASAP.)
  • I’ve spoken to Yr 7 and Yr 8 students about finding and reading great books – and launched the Premiers’ Reading Challenge at two schools.
  • I spoke to a large group of fathers and their Yr 7 sons about Books for Boys and how to get their sons reading.
  • At my editing job, which is basically full time now, I’ve hired four new staff and begun an intense six-month project.
  • I’m now booked to speak at (in chronological order) the Emerging Writers’ Festival, an exciting Booktalkers event, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, the Ballarat Writers’ Festival and the 1000 Words Festival. There’s also a guest lecture at RMIT, another at NMIT and sundry other luncheons and chats. Please come along to one or several of the public events and say g’day.
  • While work on Book 3 has been rare or non-existant, I started a short story that seems to be begging to be something bigger. That’s kind of exciting.
  • I’ve cycled in excess of 850 km and have actually come to appreciate the beauty of dawn, dammit.
  • And I’m slowly rebuilding our front fence in my “spare” time.

As my grandmother used to say, it’s better to wear out than rust out.